The Things God Does For Women

Wednesday, July 28, 2021  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

A new episode of a podcast I'm listening to came out this week. When I saw the title, my heart sank, my fists clenched, and my thoughts went immediately to the Second Mile women I love and lead. Every woman should hear me say, "Don't let podcasts, news, and stories like this define you." Throughout history, in many situations, in and out of the church, women have been misunderstood, oppressed, and abused. It's gut-wrenching to say the least. Truly infuriating. The title of the new episode is The Things We Do To Women from the podcast The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.* 

As soon as I read the title my mind immediately went into overdrive of all I've learned about women in Scripture over the past three years. The Bible is FULL of fierce women, but somehow in some spaces of American church culture, what the Bible says about women has been reduced to women shouldn't speak, wives should submit, and women should have no authority. It is true that we must study and wrestle with these difficult passages, but we must do so in light of the many, many other passages people ignorantly or willfully don't bring into conversations about women in the Church.  (Yes, I know. Chad and I have been studying this for a long time and you are ready for us to share what we've learned. We (mostly me because Chad just started school again) are working on writing a position research paper. Pray for me. It's difficult and I don't know what I'm doing.)

To counter "The Things We Do To Women" and to bolster what I know to be true about the God I serve, I made a short, non-exhaustive list of "The Things God Does For Women." Do not neglect or forget that he crafted women and loves women. May these stories from Scripture make you clap your hands, shout for joy, and remind you to stand firm in your faith because the days are evil.

1. Women can lead and conquer. Judges 4-5 

Deborah, an Old Testament prophet, rebuked Barak, the military commander, for not overcoming their enemies. He told Deborah he would only go to battle if she went, too. She replied, "I'll gladly go, but the victory will be mine, not yours." Long story short, they went and they won! Jael is another woman in the story who actually defeated the commander of the enemy's army. In a shrewd and courageous turn of events, she killed him. In the cinematic depiction of my mind's eye, her heart raced and hands trembled as she did the deed. Deborah strategically led the way; Jael conquered the enemy. May we be bold women who strategize, lead well, and face difficulties with courage. 

2. Women can negotiate with leaders and speak up for our friends and family. 1 Samuel 25 

Abigail was married to a "worthless fool." King David asked him for help and he refused. Knowing this meant trouble for her family and estate, she humbly met King David with supplies for him and his men. She could have been immediately killed by the king, but she skillfully negotiated with the most well-known leader of the area and saved her family. May we be brave women who engage all forms of leadership and speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

3. Women can have careers and fund important ministries. Luke 8:1-3

Mary, Joanna, Susanna, and many others financially supported the ministry of Jesus Christ himself. How did they support him if they didn't have some sort of income? Do not let the words of Proverbs 31:10-31 be reduced to a nice little cross-stitched pillow that you lean on for Christian comfort. This woman worked tirelessly in the marketplace. She had influence and used her resources well. May we be women who work hard and give generously. 

4. Women can learn theology. Luke 8:34-32 

A different Mary sat at Jesus's feet to learn from him. If theology is the study of God, who better to teach it than God Incarnate? Her sister, Martha, scurried around cooking and hosting. Jesus told Martha that Mary made the better choice which is difficult for many of us to hear. What about when there's work to be done, meals to be cooked, projects to be completed, kids to be cared for? Mary set aside her chores and was discipled by Christ. May we be theologically astute women who make time to learn and grow in our faith and love for Jesus.

5. Women can share and teach theology. Romans 16:1-3

Phoebe was a benefactor to the Apostle Paul and to many others. Paul called her "diakonos" which can be translated to servant, deacon, or minister. Many scholars believe that she actually delivered the letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome.(1) This means she personally delivered and possibly read one of the most theologically rich books in our sacred Bible with the new church in Rome. Had she discussed the content of the letter with her good friend, Paul? Did the Roman church ask her for clarity? Did she know the answers? Paul considered her a servant, a deacon, a minister. May we be women who are bold enough to share the deep truths of Scripture as we grow in knowledge and understanding of who God is. 

6. Women can be the first to lead the way in proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. Matthew 28:1-8

Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" had watched Jesus's brutal crucifixion, and after Sabbath went to view his tomb. They did not know they were looking for the living among the dead. And, when Jesus revealed himself, they took hold of his feet and worshipped him. At that point he didn't say, "Be quiet and wait here. I'm going to find more culturally appropriate and reliable witnesses to tell people I'm back." Instead, the living, resurrected Christ bestowed on these women the job to GO and TELL. What other authority is needed to be given than God's? They did not need permission from the disciples because they were considered to be among the disciples. Let that sink in. God used these two women to start the global and historical movement of telling others about Jesus's resurrection. This still happens today! Many church planting movements around the world are still started and led by women! The church in Iran is growing rapidly because women are sharing Jesus and women are responding. Women have played a prominent and key role in the underground house church movement in China. Women are essential to fulfilling Jesus's commissioning statement: Go and make disciples. May we be women who remember Jesus gave us the authority to open our mouths and speak the truth to those around us. 

This list is short. I believe I could write more and more about being women who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live our lives to the glory of God above all else. The world around us wants us to go home, sit down, and shut up. But Christ lifts our heads and tells us to Go and Speak. May it be so. 

(If you are reading this on your phone you can't see the video I embedded within the post. So if you would like to listen to a beautiful song called A Woman by Ellie Holcomb and Amy Grant, click here.) 
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I listened to the Rise and Fall podcast episode after I wrote this post. My heart aches and my soul cries out. As many of you know, I'm a protector and I would encourage every one of my sisters not to listen to this episode. I'm grieved over the way evangelicalism in our country has treated women for so long. I'm grieved at the unwise and undiscerning ways I perpetuated these problems in my ignorance. As you patiently (or impatiently) wait to hear the depth and breadth of what I've learned in my deep dive of women in the church, know this: I'm asking God to use the rest of my days to point to him with all that I have which includes all that I am as a woman. It would be easier for me to stick to the status quo, keep my head down, and just keep ministering to people as I have for years. But when I lift my head I can't help but see the women around me—who trust me, look to me, and want to run to Jesus like me—so I will speak out. I will apologize for wrong things I've taught. I will work to show the God-focused way of unity among men and women. May God help me be a woman who rests in him, works hard to serve him, and carries my brothers and sisters to freedom in Christ like we've never known. 

For Maddie, who mimicked every move I made when I spoke to my church this spring. Maddie, may you grow to be a mighty woman of God who leads the way in proclaiming Jesus.   


If you believe this post will encourage a woman you know, please share. Tag someone, write an email, send a text. Let the women in your life know you see, value, and pray for them. Lift up the women in your life today. Don't wait. 

*If you're listening, kudos to you. If you aren't, double kudos to you. Our obsession with Christian celebrities, Christian controversy, and Christian downfall (all said with air quotes, of course) is dangerous and unwise. True, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy are the guide posts for what we put in our hearts and minds. When I read or hear a story concerning one of these topics, I try to be aware of my motives: Will I pray about this situation? Will this benefit my ministry? Am I getting sucked into the drama or seeking to learn? Just food for thought. 

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1 Payne, P., 2015. Man and Woman, One in Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 60-63.

Rest, Tenderness, and Compassion (And a Giveaway)

Saturday, June 19, 2021  ::   3 important comments

Chad and I recently got away for a month long mini-sabbatical. I'm not sure I'll write about the ins and outs of our time away, but I can tell you God met us with his tenderness and compassion in Scripture, through nature, in our marriage, and even in the books we chose to bring with us. But I can't resist sharing just a bit so enjoy a few Hawaii photos before I get to the real point. 
So much exploring! I love how happy we both look in this photo. 

We also went out on fancy dates to eat the freshest seafood of our lives. 

I wish I was sitting right in this spot right at this minute. 

Ok, to cut straight to the real point of this post, the theme of our month away emerged as resting in God's love for us. It sounds so churchy, doesn't it? Like something a Sunday School teacher tells a child? Ask anyone who follows Jesus, "Does God love you?" and they will quickly and assuredly reply, "Oh, yes, of course, unconditionally." They may even be able to quote a couple of Bible verses at you. But, if you ask the same follower of Jesus, "How are you experiencing God's love for you?" they may flounder and hem and haw. Maybe it's a scheme of the enemy to convince us to dismiss the enormity of God's love so that we hustle, bustle, and struggle all of our days. Maybe our shame struggles tell us we are unloveable. Maybe the difficulties and sufferings of life overwhelm us to the point of denying God's love. There are many factors to be sure. To actually know this great love, to be filled to the measure of the fullness of God's love is one of my personal quests. Read that again slowly: to be filled to the measure of the fullness of God. (For more info about this, read Ephesians 3:14-21.) 

The good news is that God loves when his children are on a quest to know his love so he has been answering my heart's cry. I couldn't have imagined how my book journey over the last two months would be so comforting and healing and powerful. One book flowed with love and grace into the next. I did not personally plan this, but I do believe God provided rest for me, even in the books I read leading up to and during sabbatical. We boarded the plane knowing we needed rest and praying God would give it to us. The beauty came in how he provided rest for our very souls. 

The following are books that both Chad and I read. We read them separately and in a different order. It was very fun reading the same books and provided rich conversation. I won't be able to do justice to the work God did in my heart about his steadfast and unfailing love for me because it was a spiritual, personal work. However, I do hope that it piques your interest, better yet, creates a longing to be on your own quest to know his great, great love. Maybe you can choose one or two of these books to read. I hope you will. 

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves 

I actually read this book before our break, but it set the stage for the other books I read. In my opinion, this is a must read for Christians. I promise it will strengthen your faith in ways you didn't know you needed to be strengthened. Reeves explains God's unfailing, steadfast love through the relationship of the Trinity —God the Father, Jesus the Son, and Holy Spirit — in profound and understandable ways. "But [the Holy Spirit's] real work is to bring us to, and keep us in, the sunshine of God's love. It is there that we will sing heartily; it is there, abiding in Christ that we will bear fruit. The Spirit shares the triune life of God by bringing God's children into the mutual delight of the Father and the Son — and there we become like our God: fruitful and life-giving." 

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Fiction is hard for me. I know, I know. Many of you are appalled by my lack of literary sophistication. I'm trying to learn and grow in this area. I knew I wanted to start my sabbatical time with fiction. A leader I deeply respect ranks Gilead in his top 20 all-time favorites which is how I decided to read it. It was a gentle book, an old pastor writing about his life to his son. Reading the words of an old minister strangely encouraged me to stay the course even as a middle-aged minister. This simple book even gave me insight as a mom of adult kids. I think I will reread it at some point, but it was a tender book which helped me start my respite. 

A Burning in my Bones by Eugene Peterson 

If you enjoy biographies, read this asap. So so good. To flow from Gilead, a fictional story about an old minister, into the true story of Eugene Peterson was perfection. I've read many of Pastor Eugene's books, so to have behind the scenes insight into his life added richness and depth to my respect for him. And guess what. He was a man with regular human struggles like all of us. Sometimes I subconsciously wonder if I'm ministering incorrectly because it's so hard. This book reminded me that it is hard for everyone, even famous pastors who endured to the very end. As recounted by someone he ministered to: "Eugene's faithful presence and insistence to wait with me before God brought about deliverance that only comes when someone really moves into the neighborhood of one's soul and decides to stay, to love and care. Too many Christian ministers get impatient with slow learners and profoundly broken people like me. But Eugene didn't. He stayed around, confident that God would heal and restore and mend." May God enable me to stay around and watch God heal and restore and mend. 

God of All Things by Andrew Wilson 

Talk about a total, joy-inducing book! The subtitle of this one is Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World. The words are an accurate description but they certainly don't pack the punch that the actual book does. I've already bought two copies to give away. If you need help lifting your head out of the muck of life, this book will help you. When you read Delighting in the Trinity you will learn that God creates everything out of the overflow of his very magnificent love. This book will tell you about some of the extraordinary stuff God has created! You will learn about dust and stones and honey and galaxies and flowers and trumpets and cities and more. "Everything in creation has theological implications, and one of the joys of being human is figuring out what they are." "Things exist not for their own sakes but to draw us back to God." "Creation preaches to us. The things of God reveal the God of things." There are 30 chapters which means you can even read this as a devotional, one short chapter using the Old and New Testament to describe God's love for us through creation. Soooo good. 

Quick book review break: This is just to say even as I'm writing about these books I'm finding myself overwhelmed with gratitude for what God did in my heart and mind through them. I remember reading God of All Things as a turtle swam by in front of me. Hearing, feeling, and knowing God's love produced deep peace in my soul. In Hawaii I discovered an unexplainable joy in sea turtles. I saw and swam with more than I could count. Every time I saw one I fully took it in just in case it was my last. During one ocean swim I asked God if I could see another one. His delight in my question washed over me and he showed me I was like a child asking her Father, "Again, again, again!" And he allowed me to see turtles even up to a few hours before we boarded our plane home. God of all things indeed. 

All Things New by John Eldredge 

I brought this book along because it is about Jesus' returning and once and for all establishing his kingdom and all its glory. After the pandemic, political, and racial destruction of the last year and a half, I figured it would provide perspective and hope. Eldredge explains the difference between casual hopes, precious hopes, and ultimate hopes. He takes you on a scriptural journey to explain the rewards God's children will enjoy someday. He finishes the book with helping readers look deep into their longings for heaven and think about the details of your heart's desire in being with God forever. God of All Things enabled me to look to creation to experience God's love for me and All Things New enabled me to look to Christ's return for ultimate hope in knowing God loves me. "If you woke up each morning and your heart leapt with hope, knowing that the renewal of all things was just around the corner —might even come today —you would be one happy person." Amen. 

Marriage in the Middle by Dorothy Littell Greco 

This summer Chad and I will celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary. We are both nearing 50. (Chad would want all of you to know that I'm closer to 50 than he is because he likes to be a funny guy.) We have 4 adult kids. We are officially middle-aged. This book was enjoyable to read out loud to each other. Every chapter has discussion questions at the end which we mostly enjoyed talking through (I only cried a few times.) If you've been married 20+ years, get this book and do a health check on your marriage. Our time away together grew our love for each other which is part of me understanding God's love for me. It's all connected. 

Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund 

I finished the books I brought to read so even though I read this one six months ago, I decided to read it again. It was the perfect book to solidify all that God did in my heart in one short month. Like many of you, I've felt deep pain and relational loss over this last year and half. Compassion fatigue and heavy loneliness have plagued me. Throughout the exhale of the month, I felt God restoring patience, compassion, and love for people in my life and ministry. To wrap up the month, even though I had already read it, God used this book to remind me of his gentle and lowly heart toward me. "When the relationship goes sour, when the feelings of futility come flooding in, when it feels like life is passing us by, when it seems that our one shot at significance has slipped through out fingers, when we can't sort out our emotions, when the longtime friend lets us down, when we feel deeply misunderstood, when we are laughed at by the impressive—in short, when the fallenness of the world closes in on us and makes us want to throw in the towel—there, right there, we have a Friend who knows exactly what such a testing feels like, and sits close to us, embraces us. With us. Solidarity." It isn't an exaggeration to say, in the middle of most chapters, I closed the book, swam out into the deep water, and floated in the waves of God's love. More times than not, my salty tears mingled with the salty ocean. Psalm 90:14 says, "Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." God gave me a tangible experience through the clear waters of the Pacific to remember his steadfast, unfailing love for me. True, real, all-encompassing, just like the ocean. 

Deuteronomy 

I would be remiss to not tell you how God moved in my heart through his very Word. This year I switched Bible translations to the Christian Standard Bible. To familiarize myself with the pages and words of my new Bible I'm reading it in chronological order. Because of other circumstances, I was behind on the plan. (Side note: God doesn't care if you aren't on schedule. Let it go, friend. He just wants to spend time with you in Scripture.) Of all places, Deuteronomy moved me. God so faithfully provided for his people though his commands which enabled them to know and trust him. In the end of the book, God tells them/us the commands are not too difficult or beyond reach, that they are not meaningless words but "they are your life" and that "the Lord your God is your life." Deuteronomy reminded me over and over that through the last 30 years of my life, his Word has been life to me, teaching me to love him and showing me that he loves me. I still have so much to learn, and God used this book of the Bible to remind me that he is a faithful God, righteous and true, and the One worthy of life-long pursuit. 

Thank you for reading about my reading journey. I've thumbed through my highlights in each book several times. It provides a good exhale and smile each time. God is loving and faithful in more ways than we can ask or imagine, through books, relationships, nature, but most importantly through his very own self given to us. 

If you could choose two books from my list, which would you read? Would you like an opportunity to win a couple of books? If you know me, you know I love to give away books I love! So much love to share. 

To be entered in a drawing, leave a comment on this post, Facebook, or Instagram. Share what books from my list you'd like to read and why or share what book you've recently read that helped you grow and change. (You must share a real comment to be entered in the drawing, not just your name or "I like books." Don't be lame.) In a week or two I'll draw THREE names because as I already said, I love to give away books I love, especially books that may help you understand more fully how much God loves you. 

May God tangibly show you his great and unfailing love for you today, this week, this month, no matter what you are facing. "Go to Jesus. All that means is, open yourself up to him. Let him love you." Dane Ortland, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers 

A Graduation Week Tribute

Monday, May 18, 2020  ::   4 important comments

If you know me, you know I like ceremony and tradition. Setting up memorials to point to big events, big memories, and big emotions makes me happy. Slowing down to enjoy celebrating milestones allows me to savor important circumstances and to create lasting mental pictures. When I close my eyes and go through the various files of my mind, I can pull out colorful images and truly remember the who, what, and why of any given important moment. I relish the past because it points me to God's goodness in my life and guides me to trust him for my future. As many of you have heard me say and even read the sign by my front door, I truly believe the best is yet to come. 

This week Morgan and Carah graduate from high school. Throughout school they've grown in character and knowledge. Many teachers through the years have spoken to Chad and me about their kindness and leadership which is much more important to us than their grades, although they are also excellent students. You already know, but I'll say it again, we are so so proud of them.

I enjoyed planning extravagant graduation celebrations for Esther and Kyle and had big plans to finish our family's pre-college school years with gusto. And then, as you all know, the world got a little crazy. School ended abruptly and graduation was canceled. We've cried and released expectations again and again during the last few weeks. But we woke up today determined to celebrate, to remember, and to engage in gratitude for what God has done and will continue to do in their lives. We will have a good week. Our celebrations will be different than I had planned, but you better believe, Morgan and Carah will be celebrated!

Please enjoy reading a few fun tidbits about my sweet girlies.

Obviously they have always been besties. They still hold hands and it makes me so happy. They are fiercely protective of each other and they are also easily annoyed with each other. They are sisters, after all.

Morgan and Carah love the arts. They can sing and act. When we went to meet their choir and drama teachers before their freshman year, I totally embarrassed them by telling their teachers that they had real talent. I realize it was completely dorky of me, but I wasn't wrong. And now I think their teachers even agree with me. Being cast as two of the leads in the spring musical is proof of their talent. Am I right? If you came to their play than you know what I'm talking about.
Morgan earned a fine arts seal on her diploma by completing a capstone project. She directed a play for a state competition that earned the superior rating for the project. She worked so hard, pushed past her natural people pleasing tendencies, and it paid off. She is extremely creative and artistic. When she was in 2nd grade, she took a ton of "trash" out of the recycle bin and made a whole farm, barn and all. She also sings so beautifully. I could listen to her all day. Throughout the years, Morgan has been a trusted listener for many of her friends. She exudes natural empathy and kindness. Children flock to her. It's actually kind of weird how good she is with kids. She will take her traits of empathy, peace-exuding, kid-organizing greatness and study elementary education at the University of Arizona. A principal in town already offered her a job, never mind that he's known Morgan her whole life. He knows she'll be a phenomenal teacher. Chad and I are confident she will change the lives of many kids through the years.
Carah qualified for the state swim meet all four years of high school. What's remarkable to me is that she didn't swim on a team until the summer after 7th grade. She was just a natural. She is also a natural leader. Throughout her school years teachers would tell me if they could get Carah to participate, most of the class would follow her. She doesn't really care what people think so she speaks pretty directly to problems, but not too quickly because she also doesn't care for unnecessary drama. She is organized and caring, but in very practical ways. She will take these organizational skills and non-people pleasing but caring character traits and study nursing at the University of Arizona. School comes fairly easy to her, so we know she will do well. If all else fails, she can sing to her patients because she also has the voice of an angel. She does, however, really like to please Chad and me and is our kid who loves to spend time with us, especially by herself. And, she is the member of our family who regularly makes us all belly laugh. She's stinking hilarious. 


It may sound cliche to you, but I don't care. They have truly become some of my best friends. I love being around them, laughing with them, listening to their hopes, dreams, and fears. When I found out I was pregnant with twins, I burst into tears. Chad laughed with joy and I wept with fear. He was so right. They have brought so much joy to our lives. They couldn't be more different from each other, but they couldn't be more dependent and important to each other. They are intellectually intelligent and emotionally intelligent. Training, helping, and watching them grow through the years has been incredible. I'm confident they will press into Jesus for much, much, much more training, helping, and growing. And, the cherry on top is they truly make me laugh. 

Just in case you missed the point, I'm super proud of them. We will celebrate their graduation this week like nobody's business. Nothing will stand in our way. Tradition-shmadition. We're making new ones!

Congratulations, Morgan and Carah! Class of 2020! You guys were amazing K-12th graders and so much goodness is coming your way. Don't forget, good does not mean easy. Lots of good things come through hard work, challenge, difficulty, and even heartache. But the really great news is you don't have to walk through any of it alone. Obviously, Jesus is with you always. Also, you are blessed to have a twin. Of course, you are stuck with Dad, me, Kyle, and Esther. And good news, you are surrounded by friends and family who will be joining us all week to celebrate and will follow and support you for your whole life. You are so loved. 

Happy graduation week, my darlings! Dad and I love you so dearly. 
Want to encourage the graduates? Leave a comment, send a text, or stop by with a present. All forms of love accepted by these Class of 2020 young ladies. 

Good Gifts and a Giveaway

Thursday, April 16, 2020  ::   15 important comments

I've put off writing this post for awhile now. I had the idea and then everything flipped upside down and it just didn't seem cool to write about what I had been enjoying.

But, my birthday is this week, so this is my birthday gift to you all: Some things that bring me joy mixed with a pretty good giveaway that THREE people can win. Based on comments and entries in my past giveaways, the odds are truly in your favor so go ahead and participate.
Blooming flowers in our church building's courtyard. Oh how I miss gathering with my people. 
The truth is I've been pretty sad over the last five weeks. Can anyone relate? This sadness presses my body down and makes me feel tired most of the time. My daily prayer is that joy will outweigh the sadness and that I will cling to Jesus through Scripture, music, and being outside. Which leads me to the first thing I've been enjoying: The Psalms. I read a few each day and let the emotion, struggle, and God-focusedness wash over me. The words of each Psalm ring so, so true for our lives right now. I'm praying Psalm 20 for you, my friends:
 May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
    May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
 May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and give you support from Zion!
 May he remember all your offerings
    and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah
 May he grant you your heart's desire
    and fulfill all your plans!
 May we shout for joy over your salvation,
    and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!
 Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
    he will answer him from his holy heaven
    with the saving might of his right hand.
 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

They collapse and fall,

    but we rise and stand upright.

Lord, save the king!

    May he answer us when we call.
Amen! May we call on the Lord our God and may we faithfully wait for him. Don't make excuses to not seek him. We must open our Bibles whether we feel like it or not. He's all we truly have, so let's cling to him.

Worship music reorients my mind in good ways. There are two new albums I play over and over. They've been out for a couple of months now so maybe you've heard of them. I want to share anyway, just in case you haven't. And, please feel free to send me your favorite worship songs or albums. My friend, Sara, regularly sends me new music and I love it.

The first is Matt Redman's Let There Be Wonder. Here is the link to listen to it through your preferred streaming service. Funny story: I found myself humming one of the catchy songs on this album fairly regularly. It was always in my head, but I couldn't really learn the words because it is in Spanish. I asked Kyle to listen to it because I'm that annoying mom who is super proud of his language abilities so I push all Spanish stuff his way, especially if it is Jesus Spanish stuff. He looooves it, only he probably doesn't. One day I was listening to the whole album, focusing on each song so I could learn them and sing along. Guess what I discovered! The Spanish song is also in English! I had just never noticed. I'm so good at details, you know. Why I noticed the Spanish version and not the English, we shall never know the mysteries of my brain.

The next album I'd like to recommend is Shane & Shane's newest one, Hymns in the Round. Here it is on Apple Music and Spotify. Every song is excellent. We recently started singing Ancient of Days over our Sunday livestream gatherings. It's been an important song in my life for over a year now. Every word is a balm for my weary soul. If you aren't sure where 'Ancient of Days' comes from, what it means, or why it is important, please take time to read Daniel 7, specifically verses 13 and 14. We must keep Jesus our focus. His dominion is an everlasting dominion and his kingdom shall not be destroyed.

To be honest, the next thing I'd like to tell you about may be a little much for some of you. It's intense and needed for this generation which my intense, prophet heart loves, but it is no joke. Have you heard of or watched American Gospel? There are two movies and they are total butt kickers. If you are able to watch, prepare yourself. The first movie, Christ Alone, tears down America's love of prosperity. If you think you don't fall in this category, think again. Something in it will convict you. It certainly did for me. The second Movie, Christ Crucified, goes after all the ways American culture waters down the cross. If you want to know more about how to discern false teaching, this movie will help. It truly angered me how susceptible we all are to terrible teaching. Sound like a fun series to watch? Well, good isn't always fun. Sometimes good is also difficult. They are long movies, so it may take awhile to get through them, but as it turns out, we've got some time on our hands.

Now we enter the giveaway portion of this post. See what I did there? Made you read all that other stuff to get to the goods.

You all know I like books. I had my spring list ready to go, but to be honest, reading takes hard work for me these days. Sadness that leads to tiredness and reading takes focus so it isn't compelling right now. To top it off, I was reading Lore Ferguson Wilbert's new book, Handle with Care: How Jesus Redeems the Power of Touch in Life and Ministry when life flipped upside down. To read about touch in a time when we are not even supposed to be close to one another sucked, but I finished it. It was a good read and I look forward to healing hugs again. Here are the books on my spring list. I've read all but two and will start another one today.
I'm not going to link them all. You can easily find them where ever you purchase your books. 
I'm giving away two copies of Beth Moore's Chasing Vines and one copy of Audacious, also written by her (which is out of stock so bonus for you). Both are excellent books, compelling, deep, and easy to read.

If you win a book you will also receive a $25 gift card to Lovely Enterprises or Why I Love Where I Live. If you are from Tucson, you already know and love Why I Love Where I Live. I'm always happy to support them as they continue to inspire people to love the city I so dearly love. Lovely Enterprises is associated with Jesus Said Love in Waco, Tx. They seek to change the lives of people impacted by the commercial sex industry. I'm wearing my new favorite shirt from their shop in this photo:
Lovely Enterprises Shop
It's my birthday month, so this is my gift to three happy winners. You will each win a book plus one $25 gift card to your choice of Lovely Enterprises or WILWIL. All you have to do is comment on this post, on Facebook, or on Instagram. Tell me something you are enjoying during these days. That's it. I'll choose the winners sometime next week.

Thanks for reading. As you all know, it is a weird, weird time in our world. In my opinion, there is no better time to be lifting our faces to Jesus, waiting on him, and making our gratitude lists. What are you thankful for today?

Empty to Full :: Lessons from Romans 8

Friday, February 14, 2020  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

People often declare "I'm so glad such and such year is over" or "Such and such year was the worst year yet." I'm not one to proclaim such extremes because every given year has victories, defeats, joys, and heartaches. This is my disclaimer as I head into sharing how God used January 2020 to fill me up after the emptying that was 2019.

I would never give details as to why I ended 2019 depleted, but I can say God stretched me through ministering to others in both brutal and beautiful ways. As many of you have heard, I studied Isaiah last year. (Hopefully soon I can muster the courage to write about some of what I learned through the study.) I'm confident God equipped me to do what he asked me to do by meeting me in the depths of Isaiah. He truly strengthened me with his power in my inner being through his Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). Nevertheless, December arrived and my heart was heavy and sad. There were no reasons/words to explain the sadness. It just blanketed my heart. So I read Scripture about Christ coming once and Scripture about Christ coming again. His promised return was the hope I clung to through the jingle jangle holiday noise. I looked to the change of the decade with trepidation and leaky eyes. 2020 would prove 15 years of leading Second Mile, 25 years of marriage, and would usher in an empty nest.

Separately, Chad and I both felt prompted to set aside the month of January for some intensive spiritual emptying and replenishing. I floundered a bit after studying Isaiah, my head spinning, some of the dust settling, and not exactly sure what next step to take. I tried to work through a Bible study by a famous author and it only annoyed me (because of me, not because of the study). I looked into some other in depth book studies but felt frustrated and overwhelmed. In desperately needing something for my soul, I gave up all the "I shoulds" and simply read a few Psalms and Romans 8 every single day. (If you aren't familiar with Romans 8, stop right now, go open your Bible or click on the link and read it.) I knew it was a meaty, beautiful, redemptive chapter, but I couldn't have known how God would use it to completely revive my weak, depleted self.
My current Bible study tools 
May what God showed me through these January lessons from Romans 8 encourage you. Do not compare your own journey to mine. It pushes me to pursue God when others around me tell me how and what they are learning. My motives are to humbly strengthen your faith as I show you how God strengthened mine.

As January began, I didn't know what or how to pray for myself. He showed me that it didn't matter, that not only was the Holy Spirit interceding for me (vs 26), but Christ himself is at the right hand of God interceding for me (vs 34). Immediately he put me at ease that he knew exactly what I needed and was praying on my behalf.

One reason I couldn't escape the exhaustion of the last year is because I replayed conversations, events, and situations over and over in my mind, sometimes through prayer, but often simply because my brain was stuck. Through verses 1-8 he showed me how I had set my mind on things of this world and on things of the flesh. He very clearly says to do so is death. There is no life in dwelling on what I cannot understand or change. In the kindness of God he rebuked me, led me to confession and repentance, and reminded me that to set my mind on the Spirit is life and peace (vs 6). Prayerfully with God's help, this verse will forever be written on my heart. When I start to despair about the past or the future, he brings this verse to mind and leads me to life in Christ which is peace. Thank you, Jesus.

He reminded me of how secure I am in Christ. He reminded me that to be led by the Holy Spirit is to prove that my adoption by him is secure (vs 14). When the Bible speaks of a follower of Jesus being secured in his eternal family because of adoption, it resonates with me because adoption is momentous in my earthly family. But the passage goes on to say because we are adopted we can cry out to our Father (vs 15). Through a little more study, I learned the word 'cry' (krazo) means to scream, to cry aloud. This isn't a soft little whimper. This is a guttural "I NEED HELP, DAD!" He knew I cried out in this way many times last year and then he met me in the moment of reading this passage to hear my deep cry for restoration. I've continued to find healing from shame concerning emotion. The Holy Spirit removed yet another layer of shame as he invited me to cry aloud to him because I'm his daughter.

And then, the whole next section bolstered my understanding of deep guttural groaning for God! Our sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us (vs 18). What a promise! Then he says creation groans for Christ's return (vs 22), we groan for his return so that our bodies can be redeemed which means no more suffering (vs 24), and that the Holy Spirt himself groans as he intercedes for us (vs 26). I can't even express how these words describe how I felt over the last year, how I groaned for an end to suffering and for his return over and over. I can hardly make it through a song about Christ's return without tears streaming down my face. But then he reminded me through verses 24 and 25, that as his adopted kids, we hope for his return, but we hope for it with patience. Groaning through grumbling and complaining is entirely and completely different than groaning with longing and expectation. The line is easily seen and crossed when my disgust and discontentment is woefully disguised as hope. My God-focused hope is displayed through groaning that longs for God's glory in the whole world, for God to make all things new, for God to wipe away every single tear, for God to end suffering forever SO THAT every knee will bow in worship and WE WILL enjoy our one, true, holy, righteous, loving Lord God forever and ever. Come quickly, Jesus, and we wait for you with patience.

There is more I could share, but the final lesson I want to explain is the most personal. As I stated above, this is a big year for Chad and me: 15 years at Second Mile, 25 years of marriage, and launching our last two kids resulting in an empty nest. One of my main strengths is that I'm a very present person which enhances my relational abilities. I don't dwell on the past and I don't look to the future; I'm mostly fully present. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? What this means in real life is it is difficult to see myself in future circumstances. The short story is for more than 20 years, I've been very present with my kids. I would say being their mom is some of the best of who I am. Yes, I know I won't stop being their mom when they leave home, but it does change. I can easily see with Kyle and Esther that our relationship has only gotten better, and I'm believing the same will be true for Morgan and Carah. I'm not afraid of it. My fears come out in the very practical thoughts of what will I do? As I stated earlier, I am present. I can't see myself in the future without the daily grind of caring for my kids. My heart feels squished when I try to envision it. It's vulnerable to tell you I've asked God to speak to me through his Word about this for many months now. On one of the last days of this emptying and filling Romans 8 process, he answered my prayers in the simplest, most beautiful ways in a passage I've read probably a thousand times (literally). "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" At this point in the month, my heart was FULL of God's love. He met me, healed me, replenished me, rejuvenated me, and refilled my emptiness. He then whispered to my heart that nothing will separate me... things present OR things to come. The same love that I'm experiencing in the present moment is the same love that will carry me in all things future. It truly is such a simple idea, one church kids hear in Sunday school. But, he so lovingly answered my prayer to speak to me through Scripture and not my own knowledge about launching my kids. He will uphold me because I am secure in the steadfast, unfailing love of God. The sure-footing of his love will ground me as Chad and I launch our last two kids. Simple and still profound. He is good and his Word is living and active.

Through the emptying process of January, emptying of fatigue, of expectation, of myself, God faithfully filled me back up, with his love, his presence, and his Word. I'm ready for what's next, but not because I'm confident to achieve anything for or through myself, but because my confidence is in Christ. May he continue to establish and strengthen our faith and cause us to overflow with gratitude. I will never ever stop telling you that God faithfully uses his Word in our lives. Do not give up. Keep reading. You will reap a harvest if you do not give up.

Please Come With Me

Thursday, December 05, 2019  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

At the end of my last very long blog post, I offered a book giveaway. Around 30 people entered, which I think it great odds. Most giveaways on social media have 877 bajillion entries and so I rarely bother which is the downside of pessimism. I trained in being pessimistic about giveaways the hard way. When we had a season of being the parents of eight kids, I faithfully entered my grocery store sweepstakes every single week. I was convinced I'd win the $5000 grocery gift card if I kept up the good work. Alas, optimism didn't win out either. But I digress...

I'm pleased to announce that Suzie G and Dawn E won a copy of Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus.  Ladies, I hope you enjoy it like I have. I'll bring it to you on Sunday.

This book is not for the faint of heart. If you are looking for a happy happy joy joy merry merry Christmas it isn't for you. But, if you are looking to be reminded of why Jesus came as a baby and will come again in glory then join me in reading this fantastical, soul-bolstering collection of sermons. I'm currently re-reading it and it is exactly what I need for this month. 

While I have you here, I've decided it's time to share the Retreat de Moxie videos with everyone. It is a difficult process for me to release them because I can't redo the mistakes I see in them. (2w1 problems, if you know what I mean.) It requires humility/humiliation, but I do trust I did my best to honor God in what I said. Be assured, if you hear a mistake, I heard it, too. But, I also know you will hear that God loves you deeply, has taken your shame, and that he is worthy of all you have. What else would even need to be said? 
I love these women and many more who couldn't join us this year.
Can you feel the zeal?? 
Here they are: 





Each session begins with an intro about what is happening during our retreat. You may want to skip ahead to get to the teaching. Also, if you would like to have a copy of the retreat booklet with notes and resources, please email me and I will send it to you. 
Picture yourself here as you listen to the messages. 💛
You may already know this, but I am passionate about helping women love God with all they have, find freedom in Christ, and remain faithful to him for their whole life. I'm confident you already know this: Life is really, really hard. It sucks, in fact. Even when things are smooth sailing people around us are struggling, and then when sailing turns smooth for others, giant waves rise up and smack us in the face. This is one reason I won't give up "meeting with people as some are in the habit of doing. But [I] will encourage you all the more as we wait for the Day when we see Jesus face to face." (Hebrews 10:25 paraphrase added)

Enjoy the teaching sessions whether it's the first time you are hearing them or you were at the retreat and want to watch again. You can be confident as you watch that I mean what I say, I'm striving to live it, and dragging/pushing/hoping you'll come along with me. 

Please come with me, 

Angel 

Going the Second Mile for Fifteen Years

Thursday, November 14, 2019  ::   4 important comments

On a cold November day in 2004, we said goodbye to Lincoln, Nebraska and headed to sunny Tucson, Arizona. In preparation we prayed, gathered a team, strategized, and wrestled with God about what it would look like to drive across the country to start a church. From scratch. With no job. In a city we had never lived.

For whatever reason (the Holy Spirit shielding my normally worried heart), I had no fear. Through prayer, I believed God had revealed to me that Chad would obtain a management position at Starbucks (he did), that our kids wouldn't suffer from lack of fancy kids ministry (they didn't), and that our friends moving to help in this process were our allies and teammates (they still are).

The early days of church planting were exciting and difficult. Our team of 10 was on a steep learning curve. Everyone scrambled to find jobs, to make friends, and to invite any and every person we met to be part of a new church in Tucson we called Second Mile. Our growth seemed super slow in the beginning, especially because I had naively and stupidly asked God to give us 1000 people in the first year. My DNA was infused with the truth that "more time spent with fewer people equals greater lasting impact for the kingdom," but the American mega church culture tricked me into wanting the numbers. But God, as is always true, had a better plan.

Second Mile is now 15 years old. Thankfully, by God's mercy and grace to me, I've learned some stuff through the years. A "15 lessons I've learned in 15 years" list would be so nice right now, but my brain doesn't work like that, so here a few thoughts rumbling around in my guts.

One major point of learning is that books are my friends. A bit of critique that Chad and I received when we were young leaders is that we weren't readers. It stung and I was indignant so I've spent all the years from that point working to prove that person wrong. My motives maybe weren't great, but here we are. In the 15 years of Second Mile, I've read many books, good, bad, and mediocre. I pray I will always be able to read and implement good lessons into my life and leadership. Currently, in the middle of my life, I think I'm reading better than ever, and that's pretty fun. Recently on separate occasions, two women I admire told me I was smart, and it blew my mind. Self-doubt comes easy for me, so their words were a bolstering gift and encouragement to keep reading, learning, and growing.

To be more specific about reading and learning in the last 15 years, the Bible is absolutely necessary for me and for our church. You may have heard this, but when we were just trying to start a church, Chad went to a conference and felt God telling him to preach Scripture, word by word. All these years later, he's still at it. His discipline spurs on my own personal discipline. I can't imagine doing anything I do without the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Bible. It is life for me.

Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. 
Jeremiah 15:16 

The next area of growth for me came through the many times I wanted to give up. The name, Second Mile, lends itself to us being put to the test fairly regularly. Jesus told us to not just go one mile with people, but to go two. In the first couple of years, my family was faced with a challenge that showed me the depth of my weakness and how God would work through us to love people and honor him. One late night, I said to Chad, "Maybe we should have named our church "One Mile Community Church" or "Easy Street Church" because I'm afraid the 'second mile' will be the death of us." And it has been. Over and over, dying to my own rights, laying down my life, focusing on Christ's strength in my weakness.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me. 
Galatians 2:20 

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Luke 9:23 

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ's power may rest on me. 
2 Corinthians 12:9

Last year, God very clearly convicted me of my verbal sin of saying, "I don't want to do this anymore." What we speak out loud becomes our reality. I knew I couldn't/wouldn't quit because I'm stubborn, but my words soured my heart and disposition to obeying God's direction in my life with reverent joy. Stubbornness would never sustain long-term obedience. I had to quit quitting with my words so that my heart would stop being tempted to really quit.

Let us not become wearing in doing good for in the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not give up. 
2 Corinthians 4:1 

Recently, God clearly showed me one experience that helps me not give up. I know this will be difficult for some people to read. Please don't let it heap shame on you. Instead, let my life and words encourage you to press in and keep going. Sunday morning gatherings with my church jolt me with the ability to wake up each Monday and continue on in the battle of life. I hate missing it. When I show up on Sunday, I feel like we look in each other's eyes with an understanding that life really sucks sometimes and then gently remind each other that Jesus is our everything. When we worship through singing, it feels like I'm pushing back the darkness and reminding our enemy that he's defeated and Christ is King. When I open the Bible to receive teaching, it feels like my parched self from the long week fills up with the Living Water. When I see people I love, whether I personally know them or not, it reminds me that I'm not alone, that we are in this together, that I need my brothers and sisters and they need me. Through the years, I've learned that not everyone feels this way about Sunday worship. If you are in that space, I pray God redeems gathering with his Church for you very, very soon. Sit and weep, stand and sing, watch and pray, whatever is necessary for your heart to be bolstered for the daily, weekly, yearly battle until we finally see him face to face. The gathered Church is our reminder that this is not our home, that Jesus is coming again, that he will make all things glorious and new, and that God's glory will rest on us for eternity. Come quickly, Jesus.

Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 
Hebrews 10:25 

One of my favorite fruits of longevity in Second Mile is deep, deep relationships. People have hard lives and when you are in community with one another it leaks out and you can't stop it. It amazes me how many people love me anyway. Chad and I have walked with people in joy, suffering, and grief, both theirs and our own. You cannot go through life's valleys and mountains with people and not love them more. For me, it is impossible. When I close my eyes and scroll through 15 years of faces, my heart swells. A few years ago at our women's retreat, as I shared from Ephesians 1:16 the phrase "continually thankful and continually prayerful" came out of my mouth over and over. This will always be a major theme of how I feel about the people of Second Mile.

However, the years have also had moments of great relational difficultly. When we started Second Mile, we had heard many stories of "post-moderns" leaving churches because of hurt and pain caused by the church. People continue to come to us not sure they can engage because of wounding of past church experiences. It grieves me. However, what I did not anticipate is we would become the source of pain for some, that people would leave us with wounds we caused, that we would not always be given the opportunity for reconciliation. This has grieved me so much more. What I've learned is that, in most cases, there truly are two sides to the story. I can easily say Chad and I and other Second Mile leaders are doing the best we know how to do, but we are sinners and make mistakes. I never thought we would be a perfect church, but I didn't anticipate just how imperfect we would be. When we receive hurting people in our body who have left a church, I now appreciate and experientially know the people they left are also hurting. There have been times I wondered if my relational heart would survive another person leaving us. It has been deeply painful and it takes continual work to prevent my heart from building walls to protect itself. Living up to people's expectations is a false burden I constantly have to lay down. I do hope to continue to love people with Jesus' help to the best of my ability, even though sometimes they will leave. Which leads me to the best lesson of all:

All of these 15 years, ever single one is for Jesus alone. Every meeting, every book, every late night, every early morning, every shared meal, every event, every training, every conflict, every friendship. Everything. It's all for him. Sometimes I'm slow and my motives turn to myself, to Chad, or my kids, or the people I serve. When my vision is skewed and I look to anything other than Jesus, I lose perspective, joy, and the desire to continue. He alone is worthy of my service and worship. Whatever comes out of my life and flows to others must be from Jesus alone. He is the very center of my affections. This will be a daily, life-long choice: Jesus is better.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is he beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Colossians 1:17-18

This list could go on and on. Chad and I believe we are just scratching the surface of all God will continue to teach us through leading Second Mile. We pray God grants us years and years of serving him in this particular family. If you are part of Second Mile, I'm thankful for you. If you have been part of our church in the past, I'm thankful for you. I've you've ever prayed for my family, my church, or me, I'm thankful for you.

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members so not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Romans 12:4-5 

If you could each experience in your hearts and minds how serious I take this verse, it would certainly overwhelm you and possibly freak you out. But I believe it. We belong to one another. There's no escaping. We deal with it now or in eternity, so I plan to keep working it out in this life in order to more fully enjoy the life to come.

With so much gratitude and love,

Angel

Congratulations on making it all the way through this long post! As a form of reward for your diligence I want to give two of you my current book obsession. I love Christmas (more on that later) and to help me truly focus on why I love it, I read books. Last year I read Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ, and this year I'm reading it again. A good friend of mine described it as fantastical and he is not wrong. So, so good. I wish all of you would read it. 

If you'd like a chance to win a copy, all you have to do is comment on the blog post, on Facebook, or on Instagram. One catch, you have to leave a real comment. None of this "What a nice post, Angel. So sweet and precious." Um, no. Give me some meat. Did anything in the post challenge or encourage you? What have you learned in your time in Second Mile or in your own church? A legit comment. My guess is your chances of winning will be high because the requirements are too high for many people. Doooo it!